Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pennco Bottling Line 1956

Here's a real piece of Michter's past! This photo was provided to me by Dick and Elaine Stoll. Mr. Stoll was Master Distiller from the time Everett Beam left until closure in 1990. Before that, he held several different positions in the distillery, starting in 1955. This is a photo of the bottling line in 1956 where they are bottling an order of Pennco Rye.

From L-R in the foreground are:

George Shattls (Who would become Michter's General Manager)
Bill Krause (Who would become Michter's Bottling House Manager)
Marie Hoffman Hippert
Betty Hoffman Hunsicker (Sister of Marie)

From L-R in background are:
Dick Stoll
Mabel Nye
Ruth Gettle
Leon Dubble

True American history here!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Michter's fakes. What to do when you think you've got a fraud...

Yes, believe it or not, there are fake Michter's items showing up on the collector's market. I've been the recipient myself of a few fakes. I know others who've gotten ripped off too. So I am publishing this blog article to make you all aware of the situation, give you some examples of known fakes, and give you some information what to do if you think you've spotted a fake.

Known fake Michter's items:
It's hard to determine what is real and fake when it comes to certain Michter's items since many items the distillery made were changed or tweaked over the course of the years. One thing that is known is that at least one individual is emptying glass bottles and decanters of their whiskey and filling them with brown water. They are using stolen original tax straps (Starting with 037) and making them look completely legit. However, they often leave behind some sloppy glue work on the tax strap and the brown water inside quickly clouds up or discolors. Today I saw a fake Michter's barrel that was stenciled with the stolen Michter's barrel stencil also. The barrel was painted and rubbed in varnish. It looked and smelled awful and was an obvious fraud. There have also been people trying to pass off home-made Michter's shirts and coats as originals. According to Dick and Elaine Stoll, there were not uniforms or coats anyone wore there that were Michter's specific.

What to do if you think you've spotted a fake:
Contact me! Send me some pictures and a description of what you have and why you think it may be fake. I'll review the information and consult my resources and give you the most accurate answer I can.

To those making fake Michter's items:
While it's difficult for me to determine what is legit and what is not, there can be obvious fakes. A freshly varnished barrel is pretty much a dead give-away that something is amiss. There's really not much I can do if I discover a fake other than steer away potential buyers, however, when tampering with things containing actual liquid liquor, certain infractions can be a federal offense. And Michter's stuff just isn't valuable enough yet to be creating fakes. The effort and time it would take to counterfeit items wouldn't yield enough profit to make it worth it.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Michter's Decanter Values. Just What Are They Worth???

Those cool Michter's decanters your dad had. You know, the ones in the garage in that box? The ones he went and bought at the little wood house at the distillery after taking the tour? They're probably worth a FORTUNE right? I mean, after all, Michter's did close over 20 years ago!

Unfortunately your dream of sitting on thousands of dollars worth of rare decanters is probably far from the truth. I'll explain why. It's a simple equation of supply and demand. Sort of. Let's start first of all with explaining production numbers.

Michter's decanters over the years were produced in many different quantities. I have reason to believe that the production numbers I listed in a previous post are accurate. Decanters were produced in any quantity anywhere from a dozen or so up to thousands. This is the main point in determining decanter value. Anything under about 750 pieces is going to be more valuable. Anything over will decrease in value sharply. This is also not to say that anything with a production run of less than 750 is going to be hundreds of dollars either. Let's take some examples: The Sour Mash dog was a production run of 500. It is one of the rarest decanters and can regularly fetch $75 in excellent condition. Then look at the standard Hex decanter with a production number above 5000 pieces. You can't give those suckers away- even if they're full and in original boxes!

Which brings me to my next point- the whiskey. Having full decanters will add, at best, $5-$10 to the value-and that would be for a full AND rare decanter. Same with having an original box or receipt. The fact is, there is still GALLONS of Michter's out there. And while it was some amazing and wonderful whiskey, it's not the best and never received a 5-star rating from anyone. Some people in the Lebanon area still have enough laying around that they bake with it yet. So your full Doughboy or York Pullman is still only unfortunately worth about $5. The ONLY 2 decanters that are worth significantly more full are the Gold Pot Still and the Quarter Whiskey bottles. Why? Because the whiskey inside the Gold Pot Still decanters was from the mini still in the Still House. That's in writing. Same goes for the Quarter Whiskey bottles. It's un-aged distillate from the mini still. So what are full ones worth of those? The Gold Pot Still full should fetch $100 and the Quarter Whiskey full could reasonably fetch $150. But this is in perfect market conditions.

Which inevitably brings me to point number 3. The market. What you need is demand for your decanters to fetch a decent price. If only one person wants them and no one else, they can pretty much name the price. Making a counter-offer would be pretty much useless since they'll probably just walk away. This is why all of the common decanters are not worth the ceramic they're made of. The demand has been more than satisfied. However, there are more than 1 or 2 Michter's collectors out there that are missing rare pieces- myself included! And when you get 2 people in a bidding war, the price can quickly skyrocket. Don't expect it to happen for all your decanters though- rare ones included.

My last point ties into the previous loosely. The themes of the decanters can influence their values also. The Pitt and Penn State decanters are also collectibles to Pitt and Penn State fans as well. People in Lancaster like the Amish Buggies and Reading residents will be partial to the Pagoda. And who could forget the Tut series that put Michter's on the map? New York police officers may want to have the NY Policeman to show their support for their brothers in blue. All Michter's decanters will have a significance to someone somewhere outside of it being a Michter's item, this is true. However, it would have to be a good-sized crowd to really affect the value at all and compete with Michter's collectors for them. I don't think the good men of the Zembo Mosque are cornering the market on Zembo Tuts.

So after all that, the best response as to how much your decanter is worth is:


As you can see, there are many large variables that determine the ultimate value of your old Michter's decanters. And PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DO NOT use EBay or any other auction site to value your decanters. That Tut for $50 has been on there for 5 years. Same with the Canal Boat for $90. They'll return back to dust before they sell for those prices. Contact that dude you know with the Michter's obsession or myself and ask about values though us. I constantly watch the market and I am slowly assigning price ranges to all the decanters. I won't lie or low-ball, but if you have all common stuff, be prepared for me to tell you an honest price there too.

I hope this helps explain the mystery of why your Covered Bridge sold for $40 and your Christmas Tree sold for $15. Again, feel free to drop me an email at !!!